I am going to build myself a REAL woodworking bench. I am looking for
opinions as to the materail of the top...I have availible to me red oak,
white ash and birch (yellow I beleive)
What would you pick and why? Thanks!
MDF gets a bad rap. I've had a block (3/4" x 3 laminated) sitting out in
the weather for 4 months now and it looks exactly like it did when I threw
it out there. it might be called medium density, but have you tried to pick
up a full sheet of 3/4" mdf?
I would use hard maple, because mine has held up well in daily use for
I'd have it quartersawn and glue it up with the grain on the vertical.
I'd not use oak or ash because of their tendency to splinter.
I would not use birch because it is too soft.
Thomas J.Watson - Cabinetmaker (ret.)
tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (real email)
I took a suggestion from a Japanese woodworker. He said he
wanted something soft enough so that if he hit it with the work,
the bench would dent and not the work.
So I built my top from hardwood plywood (3/4"+3/4") but
surrounded it with a 2" edge of redwood. After 12-14 years,
there's a lot of dings in the redwood :-).
On Thu, 10 Jun 2004 20:15:58 -0700, Larry Blanchard
That's a good idea for some assembly tasks, but not for all bench
operations. When I want a soft bench I can pad it with carpet. If I
want a hard bench though, I'd have more trouble trying to "harden" it.
I completely agree with tom. If you want a serious woodworking bench use
Maple. Laminate quarter sawn 1" or so stock. If you are concerned with
scratches on your work, buy a cheap woven rug at the dollar store for a buck
to lay on the bench especially in sanding woods like cherry.
I used red oak for the simple reason that it was the cheapest hardwood
available in my area at the time. I haven't regretted the choice but would
have built it a little larger if it were being done again.
I used 1" MDF doubled up to get 2". Its cheap, flat and hard enough
for my needs. I keep the good wood for my projects. The base is built
woth kiln dried spruce. If I ever move it will stay behind and I will
build another one exactly the same.
And where different workers will use the bench over time, an excellent
Building a fancy bench has almost become a badge of honor among some
woodworkers, and I can see that. However, many of the furniture building
pros who visit our woodworkers's club don't spend time on that project, as
they would prefer to/need to tend to projects which pay the bills.
A commercial bench, or an expedient bench, the fastest time to precision
woodwork is often the consideration.
If time is not an object, then an heirloom is a possibility. But, you may
find, it takes SOME kind of bench to build the fancy one. So the type
Daniel mentions is seldom wasted. My bench is very similar to his, but
with 3 layers of cabinet-grade plywood, instead of MDF.
There is, by the way, an excellent article on building a bench in the
latest (Aug 2004) Woodwork magazine. By Michael Cullen, I believe.
At one time or another, I have had workbenches made of most of the
materials mentioned here, and finally derived a standard for myself
that has served me well for more than twenty years.
I utilize poplar for the base, because of its ability to remain stable
in an unfinished state through all changes in the weather. And, I use
high-density particle board for the top, because of its weight and the
the fact that it is a renewable surface. Depending upon the intended
usage, I might laminate two or three layers of 3/4 to acheive striking
density...a dead blow lack of bounce.
I can tack a jig or mount a fixture to the surface, I can score it
with a saw or steel edge...then take a handful of sawdust, mix it with
glue, press it into any hole, then belt it clean.
I generally drill a series of holes for hardwood doweling, that act as
dogs where I need them, or I can tack a ledger anywhere that is
convenient to the task at hand.
The base is easily set up for a variety of usages. I can rack up
clamps, or shelves for small electrics, or drawers for handtools. The
added weight of stored items adds stability to the bench. You can add
doors if you want. I install ledgers on the back legs, when I want to
do edge work. It will facilitate a vice with minor modification.
And, is easily built to any size, height, width or length, to fit any
The materials are cheap. You can make a variety of benches for
different usages, and not worry about damaging something that is toooo
How about a solid core door. I built this bench
and got a slightly dented (which became the underside) solid core door
from HD for $25 (you have to ask if they have any damaged ones).
Very solid, cheap and replaceable if the worst happens. Been using it
for 4 years and haven't got round to building me a 'proper' bench yet.
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